Skip to main content

Full text of "Tiles in the collection of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Design"

See other formats

co £ co — co ±: co 

;ni nvinoshiiws ssiavaan libraries Smithsonian institution NouniiiSNi nvinoshiiws ssiavaar 

co z , to Z » CO 2 00 


z \ w - = co — 

32l£$?\ to J^ ^ /^!^\ w x^S^K u ,^^#, " -^ 



to -»• CO Z _ 00 Z ..•. 00 -5. 

fi% l^jfl©f^f'l **™ § « 






i %T I" 

Z CO CO '" Z *- 


mi nvinoshiiws ssiavaan libraries" smithsonian~institution NouniiiSNi nvinoshiiws ssiavaan 

■7 in z .«. c> 2- to z w 


— . </> 5 . OT 2 

r- > z r- z 

— w — = 


W Z 



\ii2nvinoshiiws ot s3 i a va a h z li b rar i es^smithsonian institution NouniiisNi_NviNosHiiws" > S3 i ava a n 

z \ <" _ .. = w = 





ni nvinoshiiws S3 1 ava an libraries Smithsonian institution NouniiiSNi nvinoshiiws S3iavaan 


i"i «^^#'n 


in the Collection of 
the Cooper-Hewitt 






SOJ •■VL'N-" 





k «iL 

The Smithsonian 
Institution's National 
Museum of Design 


in the Collection of 
the Cooper-Hewitt 

The Smithsonian 
Institution's National 
Museum of Design 

© 1980 by the Smithsonian Institution. 

All rights reserved. 

Library of Congress Catalog No. 80-65036 

Design Heidi Humphrey 
Photography Tom Rose 


From the 19th century beginnings of 
the collections which were to be- 
come the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, it 
was intended that the objects 
preserved for study and enjoyment 
represent the major periods and 
styles that comprise the history of 
design and decoration. Specific types 
and materials were collected to 
document a broad and comprehen- 
sive survey of the decorative arts in 
its variations and forms. 

A prime example of this educational 
and historical approach is seen in the 
collections of ceramics at Cooper- 
Hewitt Museum. Not only have 
porcelains of the eighteenth century 
been acquired, but significant exam- 
ples of earthenware and stoneware 
from both the East and West. A por- 
tion of the ceramics collection covers 
the history of tiles, one of the most 
richly varied groups within the history 
of ceramics. 

The Cooper-Hewitt collection of tiles, 
which has continued to expand in 
quality and interest since the early 

years of the Museum, contains su- 
perb Dutch pictorial tiles, early Middle 
Eastern examples, and brilliant 
Spanish tiles in a multitude of pat- 
terns and colors. In addition to these 
documentary groups are a fascinating 
variety of English, German, French, 
Italian and American tiles that trace 
the history of the craft over the last 
400 years. 

It is with pride that the collection of 
tiles at Cooper-Hewitt Museum is in- 
troduced with this publication, made 
possible through the generous assis- 
tance of the Charles E. Merrill Trust. 

Lisa Taylor 



Ceramics, in the form of earthen- 
ware, stoneware or porcelain, reflect 
a continuous chronology of artistic 
enterprise from mankind's earliest 
prehistoric period to the present day. 
Even the most cursory glance at the 
historical and cultural development of 
human societies throughout the 
world indicates that nearly every cul- 
ture has nourished a distinctive 
ceramic tradition. The objects pro- 
duced from formed, dried, and fired 
clay are often inherently functional 
and useful. Ceramics are frequently 
used as vessels for the storage and 
serving of foods and beverages; they 
may also take the form of indepen- 
dent sculptural and figural creations. 
One important and often overlooked 
contribution of the ceramic artist to 
the history of the decorative arts is 
the production of tiles for use in both 
interior and exterior settings. A tile, 
like a brick, is a simply formed mass 
of clay, intended to be the outer cas- 
ing for a wall, floor or other surface. 
Generally flat and thin, usually fired to 
a hard and brittle state, tiles are often 
coated with a glaze to provide a sur- 

face impervious to moisture and 
resistant to wear and dirt. In contrast 
to bricks, however, tiles serve other 
direct and obvious ornamental func- 
tions within an architectural setting, 
in that they frequently provide the 
major color, texture and pattern for 
the surfaces of walls, ceilings, and 
floors. Both Eastern and Western cul- 
tures have preserved a proud tradi- 
tion of tilemaking; techniques of fab- 
rication, the ways in which tiles were 
used, and the patterns that were 
carved, stamped, glazed and painted 
vary greatly, and there are notable in- 
fluences from one country to another. 

The production of tiles usually begins 
with the formation of a smooth and 
pliable clay body, free of lumps, 
stones, and other impurities which 
may weaken the body of the tile or 
interfere with successful firing of the 
clay. Generally, local clays are mined 
near the place of production; these 
clays are carefully refined and mixed 
to produce a moist, workable mass. 
Since tiles are commonly flat and thin, 
the clay body is worked by hand and 

with rollers or other flattening devi- 
ces to produce a large, even slab 
from which the basic shapes — 
squares, rectangles or lozenges — are 
cut. Following this relatively simple 
procedure, tilemaking takes on a 
more complicated and fascinating 
aspect, for it is at this point that the 
decision is made regarding the deco- 
ration and ornamentation of the tile. 
Tiles may have relief decoration 
carved, scratched or impressed into 
the still-moist surface of the clay to 
produce three-dimensional relief pat- 
terns (lllus. 14) or sunken patterns of 
lines and shapes (lllus. 25). Since the 
majority of tiles intended for use in 
architectural settings are covered 
with a layer of protective glaze, the 
possibilities for pattern and color are 
nearly limitless; tiles may be glazed in 
a single color, but more frequently are 
decorated with several colors to pro- 
duce a variety of lustrous and bril- 
liantly patterned surfaces. Many tiles 
are decorated with solid expanses of 
color applied directly to the surface 
and fired in the kiln to weld the colors 
to the body (lllus. 15); in other in- 

stances, the colors may be applied 
under or over the glazed surface. Un- 
derglaze patterns, generally painted 
with pigments derived from metallic 
compounds such as cobalt, man- 
ganese, copper and iron to produce a 
varied palette of color, may be painted 
freehand on the surface of the tile 
(lllus. 17), or copied from a stencilled 
or pricked pattern which guides the 
craftsman in the depiction of more 
complicated figures and scenes (lllus. 
11). Colors, patterns and textures 
may be applied over the fired glaze, 
requiring an additional firing to secure 
the design to the glazed surface; 
overglaze enamels also may be 
painted by hand (lllus. 21) or even 
transfer-printed from engraved de- 
signs (lllus. 22). The range of possi- 
bilities for the decoration of tiles, as 
indicated in the selection of tiles from 
the Cooper-Hewitt collection, is 
nearly unlimited. 

The sources for the decorative motifs 
used on tiles provide another fas- 
cinating area of study in the history of 
the medium. In many instances, pat- 

terns for tile decorations are drawn 
directly or indirectly from natural 
forms; extremely popular throughout 
the history of tilemaking are patterns 
adapted from the world of plants- 
flowers, fruit, and foliage are seen on 
both Eastern and Western examples 
(lllus. 2, 9). Equally appealing are rep- 
resentations of animals of both do- 
mestic and exotic varieties (lllus. 26). 
Tiles may be used to record particular 
persons, families or associations 
(lllus. 13) and thus have a significant 
heraldic function. Allegories (lllus. 18) 
and narratives (lllus. 11) provide yet 
another rich source of inspiration for 
tile painters and designers; scenes 
chosen for depiction on tiles may be 
derived from popular literature, myth 
or Biblical sources. Throughout the 
entire history of tiles, geometric pat- 
terns are found (lllus. 5) in which bril- 
liant fields of color are contrasted 
with one another on the glassy sur- 
face of the tile. 

Basically, tiles are used in three differ- 
ent ways: the tile may be conceived 
and produced as a single unit to stand 

by itself, or used to punctuate a plain 
surface; tiles may be used in a repeat- 
ing pattern or sequence to produce a 
larger coherent pattern; or they may 
become the vehicle for a pictorial 
composition in which the pattern or 
scene depicted is painted on con- 
tiguous tiles, the tiles becoming a 
variation on a canvas or other painting 
ground. Tiles made in the latter fash- 
ion must be combined in a strictly 
predetermined plan to assure the 
sense and order of the pattern 
(lllus. 17). 

Tiles have been used in many and 
varied settings, mostly architectural, 
ranging from the simple border of a 
wall or other surface (lllus. 8), to the 
covering of entire floors, walls, or 
even ceilings. Due to the fact that 
nearly all tiles have been made hard 
and dense by exposure to high firing 
temperatures, they are extremely re- 
sistant to damage from heat and 
flame and have thus been used as 
stove plates (lllus. 14) or as the back- 
ing for fireplaces. The insulative 
properties of tiles have not been 

overlooked; tiles have been used to 
retain heat in cold climates and to 
preserve comfortable coolness in 
warmer climates, particularly on 
floors. The glass-like surface of 
glazed tiles have made them desir- 
able additions to kitchens and areas 
subject to heavy use due to the fact 
that they are easily cleaned, resistant 
to most stains, and washable. These 
practical functions are significant in 
the history of tiles, but of greater im- 
portance is the potential for color, pat- 
tern and design which tiles contain, 
and the contribution of the tilemaker 
to the overall history of design in the 
decorative arts and architecture. A 
great variety of tiles, documenting 
the styles of many cultures and pe- 
riods are found in the collections of 
the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, and to 
understand their importance, it is es- 
sential to examine the contexts in 
which tiles have appeared. 

Colored glazes that were used on 
tiles can be traced back to ancient 
Egypt, where the use of a distinctive 
deep turquoise blue glaze, derived 

from copper, was developed. Pat- 
terns scratched or impressed on the 
surfaces of soft clay were filled with a 
thick layer of this glaze, producing 
variations in the surface color. This 
technique, similar in many ways to 
enamelling, has remained popular 
among tilemakers to the present day. 

Mesopotamia early developed a 
sophisticated tile tradition that per- 
mitted a spectacular architectural ap- 
plication of glazed clay; undoubtedly 
one of the most familiar master- 
pieces of early glazed brickwork is the 
famed Ishtar gate at Babylon, which 
dates to the 6th century B.C. This 
gate provided access to the holy city, 
and was ornamented with large and 
commanding representations of 
lions. The sacred buildings them- 
selves were covered with a variety 
of awe-inspiring images of bulls and 
dragons modelled in relief and glazed 
a brilliant yellow against a striking 
deep turquoise blue ground. These 
isolated examples of early glazed clay 
used as an architectural surface 
suggest the antiquity of the art of 

tilemaking, and lead the way for de- 
velopments of major importance in 
later periods. 

1. England 

Floor Tile, 14th century 

Red earthenware, inlaid with pipe clay 

Au Panier Fleuri Fund 


Among the earliest tiles in the 
Cooper-Hewitt collection is an English 
floor tile dated to the fourteenth cen- 
tury (lllus. 1). This small, square tile is 
made of deep red clay; the surface of 
the tile has been impressed with a 
negative pattern of a spread-winged, 
double-headed eagle. The sunken 
pattern has been inlaid with a cream- 
colored fine clay to produce a clear, 
contrasting pattern against the dark 
red; substantial traces of the inlaid 
clay are still visible. The inlaying of 

one colored clay into another is a 
technique for tile decoration which 
flourished primarily in the Western 
world, and it has been suggested that 
floor tiles produced with this tech- 
nique were ultimately inspired by the 
classical tradition of mosaic inlay 
used on floors and walls. In early in- 
laid tiles, the simple and often bold 
patterns were carved by hand in the 
tile surface prior to inlaying; later, a 
mold or stamp was used to create the 
depressed designs with greater ease 
and efficiency. 

The design of the inlaid eagle on this 
tile suggests an heraldic function for 
the tile, although many examples of 
early inlaid tiles which survive are 
purely geometric. These single, rath- 
er small, tiles were frequently used in 
complex patterns covering an entire 
floor, in which individual patterned 
tiles became part of a larger over- 
all design. Due to the thickness of 
the tile itself, and the deeply inlaid 
clay which, when fired, was united 
with the supporting clay body, these 

2. Persia 

Tile, possibly 13th century 

Glazed earthenware, lustre decoration 

Gift of the Estate of David Wolfe Bishop 


tiles were extremely durable floor 
coverings, and remained popular 
in England and France for sever- 
al centuries. 

In contrast to the bold inlay of this 
Western tile is an early Persian tile in 
the Museum collection (lllus. 2). This 
large tile was possibly used in a 
mihrab, the sacred prayer niche in a 
mosque. The thick tile is decorated 
with a raised inscription in blue set 
against a lustre-painted ground of en- 

twined scrolls and stylized foliage. 
Persian tiles of the Islamic period 
(after 641) are among the most ele- 
gant and refined in the history of the 
craft. Of particular interest and 
beauty are those tiles made in the 
famed city of Kashan; by the 13th 
century, Persian tiles were generally 
referred to as kashani after the name 
of the prolific centerfrom which most 
of these tiles issued. Many of the 
Kashan tiles, like the Cooper-Hewitt 
example, were decorated with a 

metallic lustre, produced by covering 
the surface of a previously glazed tile 
with a metallic oxide derived from 
silver or copper. After application of 
the metal the tiles were fired another 
time in a reducing atmosphere pro- 
duced by introducing smoke into the 
firing kiln. The process of making 
lustred ceramics in Kashan was de- 
scribed in one of the earliest treatises 
on ceramics dated 1301 ; written by 
Abulqasim ibn-Abdallah ibn-Ali ibn- 
Muhammed ibn-Ali Tahir, this book 


Wall Tile, late 16th century 

Tin-glazed earthenware, underglaze 


Gift of Mrs. Russell C. Veit 

records that ". . . everything which 
has had a fire of this kind glistens like 
red gold and shines like the light of 
the sun." 

Used in a mosque, this tile indicates 
the close relationship that has tradi- 
tionally existed between tilemaking 
and architecture. In the case of many 
Persian tiles, the function of the tile 
also reflects the religious implica- 
tion of the image; due to the sacred 
nature of the mosque, no repre- 

sentations of figures or animals were 
allowed, and the inscription and 
stylized foliage assumed great impor- 
tance in the design. Figural repre- 
sentations did, however, appear on 
Persian tiles intended for secular 

The growth of an independent tile in- 
dustry in Turkey was encouraged by 
an influx of Persian artists who set- 
tled in the country, bringing with them 
a specialized knowledge and skill in 

the design and fabrication of architec- 
tural tiles. Another aspect of the 
Turkish tradition was the importation 
of large quantities of Chinese blue 
and white porcelain around the four- 
teenth century that inspired an entire 
range of beautifully painted under- 
glaze decorated tiles. Many Chinese 
designs were copied or imitated by 
Turkish potters and painters, particu- 
larly in centers such as Damascus. 
However, the most skillful and ele- 
gant tiles were produced in the city of 

Isnik (the ancient Nicaea). The clay 
used in the Isnik potteries was of a 
composition which fired nearly 
white; when combined with a white 
wash and clear glaze, this ceramic 
material provided a perfect foil for bril- 
liant underglaze polychrome decora- 
tions (lllus. 3). Around the middle of 
the sixteenth century, a new color, 
red, was added to the traditional blue 
and white Isnik palette; this distinc- 
tive brilliant red, often referred to as 
"sealing wax" red, was used in com- 
bination with blue and green to pro- 
duce stunning floral patterns. The 
Cooper-Hewitt tile from the Isnik 
workshops is decorated with stylized 
floral arabesques and blossoms that 
radiate from an eight-pointed blos- 
som in the center. The tile is obviously 
designed to allow a continued pattern 
from one tile to the next. The colors of 
the tile are evocative of the rich 
splendors of the Middle East, and 
suggest the poetic and religious inspi- 
ration for Turkish architecture. Among 
the great masterpieces in the history 
of tiled architecture is that of the Qinili 
Kiosk (attached to the Topkapi 

Museum); this monument richly de- 
serves the praise which is recorded 
on its tiles in the 15th century when 
the building was constructed. 
Preserved for posterity is the senti- 
ment that 

this pavilion, which is as lofty as the 
heavens, was so constructed that its 
great height would seem to stretch a 
hand up to the Gemini themselves. 
Its most worthless part would adorn 
the most precious item of Saturn's 
crown. Its emerald cupola sparkles 
like the heavens and is honoured with 
inscriptions from the stars. Its floor of 
turquoise with its varied flowers and 
chameleon decoration reminds one 
of the eternal vineyards of Paradise. 

A distinctive and impressive tradition 
of tilemaking was seen to flourish in 
Spain and Portugal. In 711 A.D. the 
Iberian peninsula came under Islamic 
rule; with this political change came 
the influence of the artistic heritage 
of the Middle East. It was around the 
thirteenth century that tiles began to 
be produced in Spain, generally for 

use as a paving material. Patterns for 
many early tile installations were pro- 
duced by cutting colored glazed tiles 
into small pieces and laying these 
sections into a ground in the same 
way as mosaics. This expensive and 
time-consuming process for archi- 
tectural enrichment was supersed- 
ed by the development of fully- 
decorated tiles with multi-colored 
patterns on their surfaces; such tiles 
were known as azulejos. 

Two important techniques were de- 
veloped to enable craftsmen to work 
successfully with colored glazes on 
the tile surface. Bold colored glazes 
were used in close proximity to one 
another on these tiles; in the heat of 
the kiln, the glazes tended to run to- 
gether and spoil the sharp geometric 
pattern or, even worse, resulted in a 
muddied melange of colors. The first 
technique designed to solve this 
problem, and one which received 
general application in the Spanish tile 
workshops, was known as cuerda 
seca. In this technique, the lines 
which describe the patterns and col- 

4. (left) Spain 

Two Tiles, 17th century 
Glazed earthenware (cuerda seca 
technique), blue, green and ochre 

Gift of Christian Rohlfing 

5. Spain 

Tile, 17th century 

Glazed earthenware (cuenca technique), 

black, yellow and green decoration 

Gift of the Misses Hewitt 


ors on the surface were laid on the tile 
with a greasy substance, and the pat- 
terns painted with glazes of varied 
colors. In the firing of the tile the 
greasy lines prevented the glazes 
from coming in contact; the lines 
themselves generally burned out to a 
deep brown or black. Clear and sharp 
patterns, frequently of complex 
geometric, organic and pictorial de- 
signs, were produced (lilus. 4). 

A second technique, known as 
cuenca, consisted of stamping the 
surface of the clay with a pattern that 
produced ridges of clay between the 
pattern sections. Thus, indented pat- 
terns, separated by "fences" of clay, 
resulted; these depressed areas 
were filled with glaze and fired in the 
usual manner. Sharply defined pat- 
terns with clear separations between 
colors were easily and efficiently 

accomplished through this technique 

In 1492, Isabella and Ferdinand of 
Spain expelled the Moors from the 
country, thus ending the long period 
of Moorish occupation. However, the 
artistic traditions of Moorish Spain 
continued for an extended period. 
Patterns and techniques developed 
for the production of tiles during the 



Four Tiles, 17th century 

Glazed earthenware, lustre decoration 

Gift of Miss Sarah Cooper Hewitt 



' \\v 'Ft 

Islamic period were maintained even 
as late as the seventeenth century, 
indicated by a group of four tiles in the 
Museum collection (lllus. 6). These 
tiles, part of a large repeating pattern, 
are ornamented in the cuenca tech- 
nique with stylized rosettes and a 
sunburst pattern in radiant lustre 
against a white ground. 

The third great influence in the history 
of tilemaking was the contribution of 
Holland. Few countries have estab- 
lished a reputation for the prolific pro- 
duction of charming and beautiful 
tiles to equal that of the Dutch. Dutch 
merchants were among the earliest 
to establish trade contacts with the 
Orient, and they imported vast quan- 
tities of Chinese blue and white 
porcelains which became the rage in 
Europe. In Dutch pottery workshops 
a conscious effort to imitate Oriental 
porcelains and to capitalize on the 
economic possibilities of supplying 
blue and white ceramics resulted in a 
ceramic industry which led European 
taste and made itself felt strongly in 
the European artistic and economic 

Holland (probably Delft) 
Tile, early 17th century 
Tin-glazed earthenware, underglaze 
blue decoration 

Gift of A. W. M. Ode, Jr. 

community. To achieve a pottery body 
of the whiteness of Chinese porce- 
lain, the secret of which was un- 
known to Europeans until the early 
eighteenth century, the Dutch used a 
tin-oxide glaze which opacified in fir- 
ing and obscured the colored clay 
underneath the glaze. Combining this 
sparkling white tin-oxide glaze with 
underglaze painting in blue or with 
polychrome colors, the Dutch created 
a successful pottery industry, a great 
portion of which was made up of 
tiles. Dutch tiles were inexpensive to 
produce, long wearing and decora- 
tive, and were exported throughout 
Europe, including clients in France, 
Poland, Germany, Russia and even to 
distant places like India. Among the 
most important orders for Dutch blue 
and white tiles was that placed for 
Louis XlVduring the late seventeenth 
century construction of his famed 
"Trianon de Porcelaine," a fantasy 
palace of blue and white earthenware 
(both interior and exterior) built for 
the King's mistress Madame de 

Typical of seventeenth century Dutch 
tile design is a single tile (undoubtedly 
originally part of a large installation of 
similar tiles) that depicts in a shaped 
reserve a stylized tulip plant with 
three blossoms (lllus. 7). The tulip 
craze in Europe, to which the Dutch 
were the major supplier, is well- 
documented in tiles such as this. 
Examples of Dutch tiles of this period 
are also frequently painted in poly- 

chrome and depict specific varieties 
of tulips. Most frequently seen, how- 
ever, are tiles such as this, in which 
the tulip is represented in a highly 
stylized and simplified manner, with 
little concern for fidelity to the actual 
appearance of the plant or its blooms. 
The Oriental influence on blue and 
white tiles of the period is suggested 
by the corner devices which consist 
of crudely painted fretwork of Chi- 
nese derivation. 



(above) Holland 

Border Tiles, 18th century 
Tin-glazed earthenware, underglaze 
manganese decoration 
Gift of Miss Edith Wetmore 

9. (far left) Holland (probably Delft) 

Four Tiles, 17th century 

Tin-glazed earthenware, blue, gre 

and yellow decoration 

Gift of Mrs. Laurent Oppenheim 


10a-d. (left) Holland 

Four Tiles, 18th century 
Tin-glazed earthenware, underglaze 
blue decoration 

Gift of Charles H.Vanderlaan,1 936-1 8-1 
The Friends of the Museum Fund, 
1938-1 2-8 a, b, c 

Other seventeenth century Dutch 
tiles include references to the world 
of nature in the form of grapes and 
pomegranates (lllus. 9). These tiles 
are painted in a polychrome palette 
consisting of blue, green, and a 
strong yellow. Dutch tiles were fre- 
quently installed in the same way that 
one would expect to see wallpaper, 
covering entire interiors of the rooms 
of a house. Many tiles were specifi- 
cally designed for use with the 
standard Dutch open fireplace 
(smuiger); such installations required 
an extensive number of tiles. Again, 
the ease with which glazed tiles can 
be cleaned was a factor in their 
choice for the backs and sides of 
smoky fireplaces. However, the tiles 
also performed another important 
function; since most Dutch houses 
were constructed of wood the danger 
from fire was great, and tiles retarded 
the direct heat of the flames. Special 
finishing borders (lllus. 8) were pro- 
duced for such interiors. 

The iconography of Dutch tiles ru 
the gamut from depictions of the 


11a-d. Holland 

Four Tiles, 1 8th century: 

Biblical subjects 

Tin-glazed earthenware, underglaze 

manganese decoration 

Gift of A. W. M. Ode, Jr. 


world of nature to contemporary fig- 
ures of women and men (lllus. 10b, c), 
mythical sea monsters (lllus. 10a), 
and, of course, landscapes and sea- 
scapes (lllus. 10d). Most of these 
stereotypical designs were produced 
in enormous quantities for use at 
home and for export. In spite of the 
fact that the exuberance of the deco- 
ration and the style of the painting 
suggest that the tiles were entirely 
handpainted, the workers in Dutch 
tile factories actually relied most fre- 
quently on a paper pattern with the 
design pricked through in a series of 
tiny holes. This pricked pattern was 
laid on the prepared tile and dusted 
with powdered charcoal to cause the 
pattern to appear on the surface of 
the tile. The outlines thus produced 
were simply filled in and strength- 
ened with cobalt blue applied with a 
series of special brushes. 

Among the pictorial and narrative tiles 
produced by the thousands in the 
Dutch factories, many were based on 

12. Holland 

Tile Panel, 18th century 
Tin-glazed earthenware, underglaze 
manganese decoration 
Anonymous gift 

well-known Biblical stories. A group 
of four such tiles from the Museum 
collection (lllus. 11a-d) illustrates 
events drawn from the Gospels, such 
as the Crucifixion and Entombment 
of Christ. Each of the scenes is 
painted in a dark manganese purple 
within a circle; at the bottom of each 
vignette is a reference to the scene. It 
might be added that these citations 
were not always correct, and thus at- 
test to the speed of production of 
these popular tiles. 

Single pictorial tiles were used in pat- 
terned wall installations. The Dutch, 
however, also excelled at the produc- 
tion of continuous scenic tile panels, 
in which a large design was painted 
over multiple contiguous tiles. Of this 
type of tile panel, one example in the 
Cooper-Hewitt collection shows a 
still-life arrangement (lllus. 12) in 
which a vase of flowers is supported 
by a base painted with a seascape. 
The exuberant bouquet of tulips, 
roses and other miscellaneous flow- 

13. Holland (probably Rotterdam) 
Tile Panel, early 18th century 
Tin-glazed earthenware, underglaze 
manganese decoration 
Gift of William Randolph Hearst 

ers is flanked by a pair of parrots. A 
more elaborate tile panel (lllus. 13) 
was probably made as a special 
commission for Lubert Adolf Torek, to 
be used in Rozendaal Castle near 
Arnheim. The owner's monogram 
appears in the center of the panel, 
within a cartouche held aloft by 
chubby putti surrounded by a compli- 
cated network of scrolls, foliage, 
flowers and floral bouquets, and 
meandering baroque strapwork. The 
general design forthis panel is related 
to the published works of Daniel 
Marot, a prolific Huguenot orneman- 
iste active in England in the late 
seventeenth century, but whose de- 
signs were known and copied 
throughout Europe. That the panel 
was intended to be viewed inset into 
a wall is indicated by the inclusion of a 
trompe-l'oeil marbleized edge that 
surrounds three sides of the panel. 

The work of other Continental tile fac- 
tories can only be briefly surveyed 
here. Of more than passing interest is 
an elegant French seventeenth cen- 
tury stove tile made of unglazed 
buff-colored earthenware in the 

14. (right) France 

Stove Tile, 17th century: "America" 
Unglazed earthenware 

Gift of the Trustees of the Estate of 

James Hazen Hyde 


15. (below right) Germany 

Stove Tile, 16th century: "St. Martin 

and the Beggar" 

Green lead-glazed earthenware 

Purchase in memory of 

Jacques Seligmann 


Museum collection (lllus. 14). This 
stove tile depicts in high relief the 
personification of the American con- 
tinent. The striding figure is swathed 
in elaborate drapery; the identifica- 
tion of the figure as the "New World" 
is indicated by an accompanying in- 
scription, but also suggested by the 
braids which depend from the elabo- 
rate French coiffure, the feathered 
armbands and skirt, and the peacock 
crest which crowns the head. Near 
the figure is a parrot devouring a 
highly stylized pomegranate beneath 
a swooping long-tailed bird, all evoca- 
tive of the exoticism of the little- 
known continent. 

The tile traditions of Germany are rep- 
resented in the Cooper-Hewitt collec- 
tions by a rare sixteenth century 
stove tile (lllus. 15) that depicts the 
story of St. Martin and the Beggar. 
The stove tile is glazed with a brilliant 
green lead glaze; the central scene of 
the saint cutting off a portion of his 
cloak to share with the poverty- 
stricken wretch occurs within an 
elaborate Renaissance-inspired ar- 
chitectural setting. 

16. Germany (possibly Hamburg) 

Stove Tile, 1 8th century 

Tin-glazed earthenware, underglaze 

blue decoration 

Gift of Henry Frederick William Rave 



German tiles of the eighteenth cen- 
tury are related in both design and 
techniques of fabrication to those 
produced in the Netherlands; typical 
of the taste of the century were 
elaborate pictorial scenes. A stove 
tile (lllus. 16) in the form of a narrow 
rectangle is decorated with a heavy 
baroque border painted to suggest an 
aperture in a wall through which 
one views a delicately shaded land- 
scape scene. 

An Italian eighteenth century scenic 
panel, composed of fifteen tiles, is a 
virtuoso effort in scenic trompe-l'oeil 
(lllus. 17). The gray-white ground of 
the tiles is overpainted with what 
is apparently a curtained balcony. 
The curtain is held in place near the 
viewer on a rod attached to the wall. 
The balcony is painted with faux 
marbre moldings, and through the 
wrought iron railing is perceived a 

17. Italy (possibly Venice) 
Tile Panel, 1 8th century 
Tin-glazed earthenware, polychrome 

Gift of the Misses Hewitt 

view of distant buildings mountains 
and waterways. A final grace note to 
the illusionistic effect is added by the 
suspended bird cage complete with 
a canary. 

Later Spanish traditions in tile design, 
particularly those of the eighteenth 
and early nineteenth centuries, are 
well-documented in the Cooper- 
Hewitt collections. The tiles pro- 
duced in Spain during this period 
were frequently of two distinct 
types: sophisticated narrative, picto- 
rial and ornamental sequences not un- 
like those produced in centers such 
as Germany and Holland; and an ex- 
traordinarily charming type of folk art 
that emanated from centers in Alcora 
and Valencia. These latter tiles de- 
pict, with true folk-art innocence, 
genre scenes and domestic activities 
common to the area in which they 
were produced. 


Four Tiles, 18th century: 

"The Four Continents" 

Tin-glazed earthenware, underglaze 

blue decoration 

Gift of the Trustees of the Estate of 
James Hazen Hyde 
1960-1-72 a.b.c.d 

Among the former type of tiles is an 
exceptional group of four tiles deco- 
rated with personifications of the four 
continents Asia, Europe, America and 
Africa (lllus. 18). Each tile, painted in 
underglaze blue, characterizes its re- 
spective continent with persons and 
activities suggestive of the geo- 
graphic location. The tile representing 
"America," in contrast to the French 
example, shows an American Indian 
chief carried on a litter by four war- 

riors with feather headdresses and 
skirts, while a fifth displays a large 
feather fan. At the head of this pro- 
cession is a Spanish conquistador, 
shown in rear view perspective be- 
neath a parrot perched on the branch 
of a tree. The sophistication of the 
perspective rendering of the horse 
and rider strongly suggest that a con- 
temporary print was used as the 
source for the imagery; indeed, an 
engraving entitled "Florida" by 

Theodor de Bry (1528- 1598) was 
consulted for this image. 

A group of four Spanish tiles selected 
from a large collection of related ex- 
amples at Cooper-Hewitt (lllus. 19) 
shows folk pottery and tilemaking at 
its most winning. Each tile in this 
group depicts either daily routine ac- 
tivities such as marketing and the 
preparation of food, or containers for 
foods and beverages. In the scene of 

cooking, a humorous touch is pro- 
vided by the cat perched on one leg in 
eager anticipation of a morsel of the 
fish about to be dropped into the fry- 
ing pan. 

All of these tiles are painted in a rather 
naive, often clumsy, and certainly 
rapid, manner. The strong folk tra- 
ditions indicated by such tiles are im- 
portant documents in the qualitative 
differences in taste recorded in the 


Four Tiles, late 18th- 
early 19th century 
Tin-glazed earthenware, 
polychrome decoration 
Gift of the Misses Hewitt 



tilemakers art. These tiles were ex- 
tremely popular for installations in 
kitchens, for they were able to with- 
stand heat when used as a surround 
for cooking devices, and were also 
easily cleaned and thus sanitary. Tiles 
of similar nature often depicted entire 
ranges of food products; painted il- 
lusionistically, such tile walls might 
include fish, game and fowl hanging 
from kitchen hooks, and shelves of 
various ingredients and condiments. 

A separate and equally delightful tile 
tradition grew up in England. Early 
English tiles were generally of the in- 
laid variety discussed earlier, or they 

were imported from Flemish fac- 
tories for use as paving tiles. In the 
middle part of the sixteenth century, 
two potters of Antwerp— Jasper An- 
dries and Jacob Janson— founded a 
pottery workshop in Norwich, En- 
gland, and produced tiles similar to 
Continental varieties. By the eigh- 
teenth century, however, a discern- 
able English style was being pro- 
duced at factories in London, Bristol 
and Liverpool. Two tiles from the 
Bristol factories (lllus. 20, 21) illustrate 
some of the designs and techniques 
fashionable for English interiors. The 
first of the tiles depicts a floral bou- 
quet reminiscent of Dutch examples, 

20. (above left) England (Bristol) 
Tile, mid-1 8th century 
Tin-glazed earthenware, underglaze 
blue and red decoration 

The Friends of the Museum Fund 

21. (above right) England (Bristol) 
Joseph Fowler factory 
Tile, about 1760 

Tin-glazed earthenware, underglaze 
manganese and overglaze white 

The Friends of the Museum Fund 


22. (above) England (Liverpool) 
Sadler and Green factory 

Tile, about 1760 

Tin-glazed earthenware, red 

transfer-printed decoration 

Gift of Mrs. Harry Horton Benkard 


23. (above right) England 
Tile, late 18th century 
Tin-glazed earthenware, transfer-printed 
and green decoration 

including the ubiquitous flanking 
birds. The circular reserve is surround- 
ed by a spattered red-orange ground 
punctuated at the corners by four 
stylized cherubim; the spattering of 
the surface was carried out after a 
stencil to protect the desired white 
areas had been placed on the tile. The 
second tile is painted in the center 
with manganese purple figures of 
vaguely Chinese inspiration on a par- 
ticularly attractive bluish-white 
ground. Over the glaze are painted 
miscellaneous flowers and leaves in a 
pure and pristine white; this tech- 
nique, known as bianco sopra bianco 
(white on white) is typical of English 

tin-glazed earthenware of the mid- 
eighteenth century. The Dutch origins 
of the technique of tin-glazing is re- 
flected in the English term "delft- 
ware," used to describe this entire 
family of ceramic products. 

Another technique utilized in later 
eighteenth century English tile pro- 
duction was known as transfer print- 
ing (lllus. 22, 23). In this technique, an 
engraving was inked with enamel 
ink; upon removal of the image on 
paper from the engraved plate, the 
print was "transferred" to the glazed 
tile by applying the moist print to the 
surface. A subsequent firing bonded 

24. England (Fulham) 
Sand's End Pottery 
Tile, 1 898-1 907, designed by William 
Frend De Morgan (1 839-1 91 7) 
Glazed earthenware, blue, green and 
turquoise decoration 
Purchase in memory of 
Georgians L. McClellan 

the printed image to the tile. One of 
the most active factories that pro- 
duced transfer-printed tiles was 
founded in Liverpool by John Sadler 
and Guy Green. The rapid means of 
production through the use of trans- 
fers had enabled Sadler and Green 
by 1756 to decorate 1200 tiles in 
about 6 hours. 

The nineteenth century saw the 
growth of highly efficient industrial- 
ized tile industries in many coun- 

tries, but particularly in England. 
Commercial production of tiles satis- 
fied the growing need for tile sur- 
rounds for the fireplaces which were 
appearing in more and more rooms in 
middle-class homes. The aesthetic 
quality of such tiles was criticized by 
many designers in the latter part of 
the century who wished to return the 
"art" of tile design to the medium. 
Among the influential and innovative 
designers who turned their atten- 
tion to tiles was the Arts and Crafts 


25. England (Fulham) 
Sand's End Pottery 

Tile, about 1 900, designed by 
HalseyR. Ricardo (1854-1928) 
Green glazed earthenware 
Purchase in memory of 
Georgiana L. McClellan 

movement luminary William Frend 
De Morgan. Born in 1839, De Morgan 
was trained as an artist, and sub- 
sequently became a friend of the 
spearhead of the movement, William 
Morris. By the 1870's De Morgan had 
established his own ceramic factory 
in Chelsea, where he designed and 
produced ceramic vessels as well as 
tiles. In his early Chelsea years, De 
Morgan painted tiles on ready-made 
commercial "blanks." Following a 
move of the factory and the construc- 

tion of kilns at Merton Abbey, and at 
Sand's End in Fulham, De Morgan 
produced tiles from the initial stages 
of clay preparation to the final firing of 
painted decoration. De Morgan tiles 
are notable for their rich and subtle 
coloration, particularly in subjects 
drawn from the world of plants and 
flowers (lllus. 24), but also for his 
clever use of impressed decoration 
and solid color glazes to produce rich 
surface effects (lllus. 25). 

26. United States 

(Doylestown, Pennsylvania) 
Moravian Pottery and Tile Works 

Tile, 1937: "Persian Antelope" 
Glazed earthenware 
The Misses Hewitt Fund 

This brief survey of the Cooper- 
Hewitt collection of tiles concludes 
with an example of American origin 
(lllus. 26). This tile, which depicts a 
"Persian Antelope" was made at the 
Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, 
founded by Henry Chapman Mercer 
in 1898 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. 
Mercerwas among the leaders in the 
movement to revitalize the tile tradi- 
tion in America; his initial efforts, 
however, were to reproduce exam- 
ples of indigenous pottery found in 
Pennsylvania. Mercer chose designs 
from cast-iron stove plates of the 
eighteenth century, but also copied 
medieval and Middle Eastern exam- 
ples. The bright red clay body of many 
Moravian Pottery and Tile Works 
pieces is enhanced with particularly 

rich and watery glazes. It seems ap- 
propriate that this tile, made in the 
twentieth century and in the United 
States, based on early Persian exam- 
ples similar to those early examples 
in the Cooper-Hewitt collection, 
should close this survey of the 
tiles preserved at Cooper-Hewitt 
Museum for the enjoyment of future 
generations of Museum visitors. 

David Revere McFadden 

Curator of Decorative Arts 

Selected Bibliography 

Barnard, Julian. Victorian Ceramic Tiles (Greenwich/Conn., New York Graphic Society, 1972). 

Berendsen, Anne. Tiles: A General History (New York, Viking Press, 1967). 

Frankfort, H. The Art and Architecture of the Ancient Orient (Baltimore, Penguin Books, 1955). 

Frothingham, Alice. Talavera Pottery (New York, Hispanic Society of America, 1944). 

Giacomotti, Jeanne. Histoire de la Ceramique . . . (Paris, R. Ducher, 1933-35). 

Haberly Loyd. Mediaeval English Paving Tiles (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1937). 

Helbig, J. La Ceramique Bruxelloise du Bon Vleux Temps (Brussels, Edition du Cercle d'Art, 1946). 

Huseler, Konrad. Deutsche Fayencen ... (3 vol.) (Stuttgart, A. Hiersemann, 1956-58). 

Jonge, C. H. de. Dutch Tiles (New York, Washington, London, Praeger Publishers, 1971). 

Oud-Nederlandsche Majolica en Delftsch Aardewerk . . . (Amsterdam, Scheltema en Holkema, 1947). 

Lane, Arthur. French Faience . . . (London, Faberand Faber, 1948). 

A Guide to the Collections of Tiles (London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1960). 

Later Islamic Pottery (London, Faber and Faber, 1957). 

Liverani, G. Five Centuries of Italian Majolica (New York, McGraw-Hill, 1960). 

Pope, A.U. Introduction to Persian Art . . . (London, 1930). 

Price, E. S. John Sadler; A Liverpool Pottery Printer (West Kirby, England, 1949). 

Queiroz, Jose. Ceramica Portuguesa (2nd edition) (Lisbon, 1948). 

Rackham, Bernard. Catalogue of Italian Majolica (London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1940). 

Dutch Tiles (London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1923). 

Early Netherlands Majolica . . . (London, 1926). 5 25 7 7 

Ray, Anthony. English Delftware Tiles (London, Faber and Faber, 1973). 
Tilmans, Emile. Faiences de France (Paris, Editions des Deux-Mondes, 1954). 
Wight, Jane. Medieval Floor Tiles (New York, St. Martin's Press, 1975). 

Z3 *t 



< b 

inoshiiws ssiavaan libraries Smithsonian institution NoiinmsNi nvinoshiiws ssiavaan libi 

w . z > ^ _ z \ w z w 

^SSb^, x /*^ ^o\ \^^ I %&£">%? 


inoshiiws ssiavaan libraries Smithsonian institution noiiiuusni nvinoshiiws S3iavaan lib 


inoshiiws'"s3 lavaan^LiBRARi es"smithsonian~ institution NouniiiSNi NviN0SHiiws*S3 1 ava8 n~ LI B 

m — w z „ OT 5 „. v .- OT 2 

#. l#% Aiij^'l AiA A i All 


CO _ _ Z . CO Z W j- 2 ■« W _ ^ Z 


— -_ en — m — m — %• <f) 

' 5 


Z _ CO Z .ar, CO z CO Z CO 

% 4m 


< to 

r- , z r- Z r- z 

^ -~ «S /rt -£■ 

co 2:- '" ^ M z w ^ - 

z; /^f»WS\ = 

— — is^v? </> — ,„ _ tn — v co